Technology giant Apple is known for being the cutting edge of creativity, in terms of both the products it makes and the way the brand is marketed. However, one slight imperfection was exposed, or rather self-confessed, this month when the company released its diversity report. It revealed that 70% of Apple’s global workforce is male and 55% of US employees are white. Similar figures were revealed by Google, Yahoo and Facebook earlier in the year. The results are perhaps unsurprising in a sector which has traditionally struggled with diversity.

However, what’s interesting about Apple’s revelations is that not only were they made public out of choice, but also, and perhaps more importantly, they made the business case for diversity, rather than just the moral case. CEO, Tim Cook’s message was that “diversity is critical to our success as we believe deeply that inclusion inspires innovation.” The quote also made clear that having a diverse workforce is about more than simply reducing the amount of ‘white males’ in the company. “Our definition of diversity goes far beyond the traditional categories of race, gender and ethnicity. It includes personal qualities that usually go unmeasured. Who we are, where we come from, and what we’ve experienced influence the way which we perceive issues and solve problems.”

As Cook infers, diversity is not simply a “nice-to-have” but a business imperative, and the fact that this is now being noticed by major players at the very top of the corporate tree is a major step. For any meaningful change to come about, it needs to be recognised that there is a direct link between having a diverse workforce and business success. Now this finally appears to be happening. Therefore within the talent management arena it is perhaps more vital than ever that professionals have a complete understanding of the three key business reasons why it is vital to be diverse:

  1. Firstly it is clear that in order to get the best people, talent must be sourced from the widest possible pool. If a company limits its search to one demographic – based on gender, ethnicity, nationality or any other – then it is unlikely to find that the best individuals all fall within this one group.
  2. In the business world – and specifically in the technology world – innovation is more vital than ever. In order to stay ahead of competitors, organisations need a constant flow of fresh ideas. If their workforce or boardroom is full of people of similar ages, backgrounds and levels of experience, they will more than likely all think along the same lines, making innovation all the more difficult.
  3. Finally, we live in a diverse consumer culture in which it is vital to understand the motivations of a wide ranging customer base. The only way of truly doing this is by having a workforce that reflects it. This was a lesson which motor manufacturer Ford learned a few years ago when the company released a new range of vans which they had designed to be perfect for small business in the retail sector. However, their first attempt at marketing the vehicle failed, largely due to the fact that the businesses they were targeting were owned primarily by middle-aged British Asians, who were conspicuous by their absence in Ford’s own marketing team. Having realised this, they then sourced people from the demographic to help them reach their target audience. Once they had put together a team which better reflected their customer base, sales of the van went through the roof. This example shows, as many business leaders are now beginning to acknowledge, that more closely representing your customers has a direct impact on a company’s success.